“To be full of manifest things is to be empty of God.”
On top of a giant heap of manifest things is exactly where Reason alone strands us. As I wrote about in the previous post, Rationality can take us only as far as the Third Veil Of God, but there it must leave us. To reach the next level of awareness (the Third Level Of Awareness, but who’s counting?), we must transcend Reason and tap into our deeper Intellect, or what I prefer to call our Intuition. It is only then that we can pull back the Second Veil Of God and obtain a deeper understanding of the Universe.
Human Reason, chained as it is to sensory perceptions (which it correlates and analogizes), keeps us treading water in a world of apparent multiplicity. But if we can push past the limits of Reason, we can pull back the Second Veil Of God, and experience the bliss of a direct awareness of underlying Reality.
Eckhart believes that the best way to do achieve this deeper knowledge is through detachment from Self and all the concerns of Selfhood. “When all Individuality is asleep in you,” says Eckhart, “then you are awake in God.”
True detachment “is unmoved by any contingency– affection or sorrow, horror or disgrace.” By detaching ourselves completely from Space and Time and all external modes of knowing, we experience the “dispossession of Self,” undergoing what Eckhart calls “a death and a resurrection in Christ.”
Eckhart chooses to approach God by following the “Negative Way” traversed by the Christian philosopher, Pseudo-Dionysius. The Negative Way leads us to God by stripping away all that is not God. According to Eckhart, the logic is as follows:
“Since every affirmation is a limitation and hence a negation, then the negation of an affirmation is a negation of a negation… and as such, divine infinite affirmation.”
Each layer of Attributes and Qualities we strip away from the Created, we move closer to God, Himself. Once we have mastered the art of detachment, we are “no longer affected by any transitory other.” We become, according to Eckhart, like a door hinge, unmoved in the midst of movement.
Detachment turns out to be the highest virtue– higher than Love or Humility or Mercy. This is because, in Eckhart’s view, all the other virtues have their root in detachment.
When we are attached to our own ego, we distort our view of Reality, looking, as it were, at the Universe through the prism of our own self-importance. Once we can view our own pains, frustrations, pleasures, and joys with detachment and take a more balanced view of the world, we will naturally be more in sympathy with our fellow creatures.
And once we have distanced ourselves from the idea of our own isolated individuality and from the apparently separate manifestations of Creation, we find that Reason alone (the main tool used to pull back the Third Veil Of God that is now behind us) becomes insufficient for further enlightenment. We must now rely on our “Higher Intellect“– what I think is best translated today as “Intuition.”
Reason bogs down in the material world, the world of apparent separations and dualities. But to move closer to God, “opposites must be transcended,” says Eckhart, and we must move “beyond individuality, beyond comparatives, beyond dualities.”
When a person “knows the creatures in images that are variously differentiated,” says Eckhart, one has “Evening Knowledge.” When one knows the creatures “without any differentiation and stripped of all images,” then one possess “Morning Knowledge.”
The less restricted we are by materiality, the more capable we become of participating in pure Being; if we can attain a state of mind completely unrestricted by material concerns, our intellectual participation in Being is total.
“As long as the Soul is regarding anything in Time or Place or anything external-wise,” says Eckhart, “it can never know God.”
Limiting ourselves merely to Rational thought, we can only proceed in our comprehension step by step, from one learned object to the next, moving from partial understanding to partial understanding as if climbing the rungs of ladder. But by exercising our Higher Intellect and contemplating the world via our Intuition, we can leap over the obscuring middle layers of Reality presented by sensory objects existing in Time, and directly realize the truer, deeper Reality underneath.